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Benguet mines still operating after DENR closure order, says PCIJ

Benguet mines still operating after DENR closure order, says PCIJ

  • According to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, these mines are still operating and wreaking environmental havoc
Mining DENR PCIJ header image nolisoliph

On Jan. 31, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that the suspension and closure orders against 28 mines issued by the late Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Regina “Gina” Lopez were not implemented.

The report outlined the timeline of events since the order closures, the mines involved, and the detrimental effects of their continued operations on their host communities—specifically the mineral rich Cordillera region. 

Mining is one of the biggest industries in rural areas, accounting for “over 180,000 workers nationwide, not counting indirect jobs created,” according to the PCIJ report. 

Despite those numbers, local leaders can’t ignore the ill effects mining had on the community at large. “In Benguet, a mineral-rich province in the Cordillera region, mayors of two mining towns covered by the order welcomed Lopez’s bold move albeit concerns for thousands of residents who stood to lose their jobs,” the report read. 

“Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan has had a strenuous relationship with Benguet Corp., at times finding the company responsible for his town’s environmental problems. He is also backing demands of indigenous people’s organizations, which claim ancestral rights to the land, for a bigger share of BC’s profits,” the report added. 

The culture of “non-implementation” is also one of the reasons these mines continue to operate, said former DENR undersecretary Antonio La Viña. “It should have been decided quickly. This is why there is so much conflict in the mining industry. It’s an inherently risky activity and there are clear rules, but when rules are violated, they are not enforced,” he said in the report.

A long list of mining-related disasters, including a 150-meter sinkhole that swallowed six homes during Typhoon Lando in 2015, were included in the report to show the catastrophic effects posed by unregulated mining. 

You can read the PCIJ’s full report here © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.